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Question Number: 31210

Law 5 - The Referee 1/29/2017

RE: NA Adult

Ali of Manama, Manama Bahrain asks...

If a ref gives a player a yellow card for a tackle, can he change that to a red card if the medical team find out its a really bad injury (i.e. Broken bone etc) to the player who was tackled?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Ali,
The referee should never make or change his decision based on what the outcome is.
A bad outcome doesn't necessarily mean that the tackle was serious foul play. Most broken legs I've seen on the field have been from a perfectly legal, all-ball challenge. I've even seen one where the defender did miss the ball (just), but didn't have a great deal of force - no more than what would be a normal foul - and somehow it was the player who ended up with the broken leg who kicked harder.

The referee doesn't know what pre-existing conditions may occur - and unfortunately, being a contact sport, sometimes things that weren't particularly foul have a terrible outcome.

It's always a shame to see a serious injury like this occur.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ali
Referees generally should not act like detectives. If a tackle merits a caution based on what the referee sees it is rarely a good idea for a change of mind to upgrade it to a dismissal because of medical team opinion.
Having said that I recall seeing Referee Mike Dean about to caution a player for a reckless tackle and the tackled player showed him his injured shin which had a huge deep wound. Referee Dean immediately put away the yellow card that he had not shown by this time and then showed a red card. He could be seen justifying his decision to those questioning the red card by pointing to the wound on the shin of the player. Very rare yet it does appen.
The important part is to get the decision right and I gave seen innocuous challenges end up with a serious injury while an excessive force challenge might end up with no injury.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

While in theory, a referee could change the decision on the colour of a card after issuing it, it would be unusual and I agree with ref Wright that it would not be recommended to do so based solely on the outcome of an injury.

However the law does differentiate between some offences to a certain extent based on whether contact took place or not so assuming a referee had thought there had been no contact and then realised there had been, there might be a rationale for deciding on a different course of action. It's still a somewhat risky practice though as you can't always be sure exactly how a specific injury occurred.

I might also point out that in the incident ref McHugh refers to, although it did appear that the referee may have changed his mind, if he did so, it was before showing a card, not after. So it could be argued that he was still in the throes of the decision-making process and had not yet come to a final determination. Had he already come to a final decision and had already shown the yellow card, I have a feeling that he would not have changed it.

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